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Santa Barbara Lawsuit Alleges Former Dos Pueblos Coach Justin Sell Sexually Assaulted a 15-Year-Old Student

A victim of sexual assault by a former Dos Pueblos High School football coach is now suing the Santa Barbara Unified School District for damages.

A victim of sexual assault by a former Dos Pueblos High School football coach is now suing the Santa Barbara Unified School District for damages.

The victim, referred to in court records as John Doe, and his attorneys claim the district failed to protect him from more than three years of abuse by Justin Sell between 2009, when Doe was a sophomore and 15 years old, and 2012. Sell’s crimes included making sexual demands of the victim, sending him suggestive text messages, and grabbing his genitals.

Following Doe’s graduation from Dos Pueblos, he reported Sell’s actions to his parents and to the authorities, and Sell was arrested in June 2013. During his criminal trial, Sell pleaded no contest to multiple felony charges and was sentenced to one year in County Jail and five years of probation. He was also ordered to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. Prosecutors at the time described how Sell, who was in his mid-twenties, “systematically and methodically groomed” Doe, mentoring and befriending him and referring to him as his “bro.”

This is only one of several lawsuits and criminal investigations that alleges sexual assault of children in Santa Barbara area public and private schools.

  • Santa Barbara High School’s Multimedia Arts & Design (MAD) Academy -Current and former MAD Academy parents came forward with allegations of misconduct and a video of school director Dan Williams appearing to party with underage students. Former MAD Academy Operations Director Pablo Sweeney has been accused of inappropriate communication with a former underage student. Sweeney was quietly terminated from his position. Parents expressed Williams and the SBUSD’s failed to report the allegations to local law enforcement under California’s “Mandated Reporter” law.
  • Santa Barbara Unified School District- Ex-Santa Barbara Unified teacher Harmachis has been banned from teaching ever again following multiple allegations of misconduct and abuse toward students over the past 15 years or so. On November 30, 2020, a lawsuit was filed by Manly, Stewart & Finaldi in the County of Santa Barbara Superior Court against Santa Barbara Unified School District (SBUSD) and former teacher Matef Harmachis for, among other things, sexual battery, sexual assault, and negligent supervision, hiring, and retention.
  • The Thacher School, Ojai– The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office is also currently investigating allegations of sexual abuse at the Thacher School an elite private boarding school following the release of a report which details sexual misconduct by teachers and school employees going back decades.
  • The Cate School, Carpinteria- The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office and the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office are investigating reported allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct by a former employee of Cate School another elite private college preparatory boarding school with tuition in excess of $50,000 per year.

Anyone with information about any possible victims or witnesses to sexual abuse of children in these schools is urged to contact local law enforcement

Manly, Stewart & Finaldi has represented hundreds of child sexual abuse victims of teachers and coaches in California schools and Universities. We were the lead attorneys helping sexual abuse victims in recover $852 million from the University of Southern California.  We are also the lead attorneys representing Olympic athletes and victims of former US Olympic Women’s Gymnastics Team Doctor Larry Nassar and secured a $500 million settlement for our clients.   In each of these cases we have helped victims and families get justice by conducting a thorough investigation of the organization and the school . We secured a settlement of $140 million on behalf of 81 child sexual abuse victims at Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles. This was the largest child sexual abuse settlement by a public school district in history. In many cases we have discovered that administrators and executives  know that the perpetrator was a danger to children and either did nothing or actively covered up the crimes.

Manly, Stewart & Finaldi is regarded as America's leading law firm for sexual abuse cases. As a firm that exclusively handles sexual abuse cases, our California law firm offers experienced representation to obtain justice for sexual abuse survivors, harassment, and discrimination.

Learn more about Manly, Stewart & Finaldi.